US must invest more in AI or risk losing technological edge

7 October 2020 (Last Updated October 7th, 2020 11:28)

US must invest more in AI or risk losing technological edge

A recent report from the Future Defense Task Force, a bipartisan congressional panel, has reiterated the need for the US to invest more heavily in AI. While the US has increased spending in this area in recent years this report reflects the growing belief within US military circles that spending on advanced technologies is still far lower than it needs to be to address future conflict scenarios.

William Davies, Associate Aerospace and Defense analyst at GlobalData comments: “Despite new organisations such as the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) providing an increased focus on AI the US is still lacking in technological readiness and must focus on transformative solutions rather than single use efforts, as well as creating a common AI foundation and developing a leading workforce – points the DoD themselves outlined in their 2020 strategy document. Additionally, there will also need to be further integration with major defence programmes, and a more concerted approach for advanced technologies.”

Generating AI capability requires defence actors to work significantly more with the private sector. Current leaders in this space include companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. The DoD has previously had problems working with technology companies because of internal resistance to DoD goals, with Google opting in 2019 not to renew their contract for Project Maven due to employee pushback.

Along with the larger established private sector companies however, the US also needs to engage with, and specifically develop, an ecosystem of small and medium sized (SME) companies and start ups. Recognising this need, the report suggests raising the funding ten-fold for efforts to corral private sector expertise through initiatives like the Defense Innovation Unit.

Davies continues, “The US must pursue more serious integration with current and future defence programmes and consider the applications of AI in all areas of defence including logistics and cyber operations, and in particular the development of semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles. However, other major powers such as China and Russia are also investing heavily in this area. Moreover, China aiming to be a world leader and bring the domestic value of its AI industry to $150bn by 2030.”